|Confused or smart: Fru Ndi on the SDF before elections|
|Written by The Standard Tribune|
|Monday, 28 March 2011 19:21|
Seven months to the presidential election, the strategy of the Social Democratic Front remains hard to grasp. The party that nearly took power in 1992 appears stuck with an anti-Elecam campaign, which was the main theme of the recent tour of six regions by the party’s chairman John Fru Ndi.
The SDF idea, we understand from conversations with the chairman and other party insiders, is that unless the members of Elecam are changed and reforms such as the use of biometric technology in the registration process are adopted, the coming election would flop as a result of popular rejection. People are deeply distrustful of Elections Cameroon and on their own would punish the system by staying at home, Fru Ndi suggested in an interview.
The problem for analysts has been to put a finger on the rationale of the thinking, which seems to conflict sharply with the party’s ambition of capturing power. Fru Ndi denies in an interview with the Standard Tribune that he has ever asked Cameroonians not to register for the coming poll. But he equally admits not asking them to do so, saying people on their own are seeing the demerits of the electoral system and do not want to have anything to do with it.
On tour, Fru Ndi said he had not come to ask the people to flush President Paul Biya from power. Yet, party insiders say the SDF is likely to field a candidate, most probably Fru Ndi for the poll. Wouldn’t the party’s posture play to its eventual candidate’s disadvantage?
We interviewed Fru Ndi just after his tour of the Far North, North, Adamawa, East and West regions.
You’ve been doing this tour to talk about Elecam. Could we know how it went?
In some places, I gave room for questions and answers. And, the questions the people asked showed that there was that follow-up; there was that belief in what we are saying; there was that determination. The people on their own had even [made] up their minds not to get involved in some of those things, because in most of the places, the people believe that the results of elections in Cameroon are ever known before people go in for elections. For once, Mr. Biya should please make it clear that people can go in for free, fair and transparent elections.
Your tour came at a time when the CPDM was also out on the field trying to encourage people to go register and vote massively. How did you see the conflict between your message and the message of the CPDM played out on the field, especially in the mind of the people you were talking to?
The CPDM people had to go to the field because they realized that Elecam had failed. They realized that there was this voter apathy, that Cameroonians had no confidence again in elections and so they need some different message which will give the people of Cameroon the guarantees that when you register you vote, and you vote at the polling station where you registered.
But the registration on the field is haphazard. Its what I call organized confusion because you have people being registered at places that are not their own areas of origin. For instance, if somebody who is resident here, in my house [in Yaounde], comes up to Bamenda for a cry-die, they catch him, register him there; he’s in the market buying things, they register him in the market; he’s at the church, they register him in the church.
We were able to discover that people even had 10 registration cards. But if you tell this to Elecam, they tell you that, when they’ll be composing or rebuilding the electoral register in the software, all these names will be expunged. How can we know that? In the elections of 2004, we had somebody who had registered seven times and before we caught up with him, he had voted five times. Minat/d gave the guarantees that you do not have anybody voting twice, but this was done.
If the CPDM are on the field encouraging people… I want to correct this, that they are not encouraging people, they are effectively doing the registrations themselves, which means that the CPDM and Elecam and Minat/d, are all one and the same thing with the same rigging machinery.
That’s why we went out to the field to prepare the people’s minds. We’d given in right from 1992 when they rigged elections. [In] 96 they rigged; 97 they rigged and so forth. We thought that we should let the people know and let Cameroonians wake up, arise and fight for their own rights in their own society, because the absence of free, fair, transparent elections is the invitation for chaos; is the invitation for upheavals; is the invitation for the destruction of the society - and in the SDF we would not fold our hands, sit down and just watch this happen.
You have maintained, that there’ll be no elections under the present form of Elecam and this was the message you have been taking around. What exactly does that mean?
It means that there’ll be no elections under the present form of Elecam because Cameroonians are seeing it and they know that Elecam is no group that can guarantee the free, fair, transparent elections. When we talk about the composition of the officials of Elecam, these are people in society that are known. Their activities in society are known, and we keep telling people that what you do today, the statements you make today, judge you tomorrow. Most of these people are known by the statements they made, they are known by their activities in society.
It is not Fru Ndi going to take one person [and] describe. They are from the 10 different provinces chosen and the people of these areas know the people. Some of them have been university dons and their activities in the university are known. When you go to tell a university student again that look this person is here doing this, it’s a thing that the student already knows. The governors who are on board, their activities in politics, in the conduct of elections are known. How is it that it’s me who is telling people “look this person is this”? The people are known.
So, when we talk of the credibility of the set of people; and what the SDF did with the other consultations to come up with people that we thought were at least free in their minds and none of these people was ever thought of or taken into account, it’s not an issue of we saying it, it’s an issue that’s already established, people are seeing.
If you then decide to run, which you indicated that could be the case, wouldn’t you have campaigned against yourself by discouraging people from registering; you put yourself in a disadvantage. What kind of strategy are you actually pursing?
Elecam from inception was supposed to have a purely new registration chart opened. They were not supposed to tell you that “inherited from Minat/d an electoral register of five million people. Let us be very frank as Cameroonians. Where and when has Minat/d ever registered 5million people and they voted in this country. When they do all the rigging and all the like, I think the highest I can remember that they came up to was about 2.5 million. Today they tell you that it’s 5 million.
And [as] the census results are still being contested, the Director of Elecam tells you that they are expecting this number from this area following the census. They’ve already concocted their schemes. As Marafat himself will sit in his office and tell you that the trends coming from the field show that CPDM has won here by this percentage, won there by this percentage. These are the things we are trying to avoid.
You see, they can come to the field, intimidate people who want to demonstrate and all the like but the fire that burns our country starts from the careless strike of a match stick from a child innocently not knowing what he’s doing in the market; and you see the whole thing goes ablaze.
So you don’t think this could play out against you if you decided to run in the sense that your voters would not have registered?
What I meant which I didn’t conclude, was that if in the end Elecam is reviewd, we have to start off with a new electoral register because we’re fighting for the biometry registration, which Cameroon is capable of doing. Guinea, Benin and other countries are doing it. Nigeria, within two weeks registered 80million people.
The international community is coming in, trying to be diplomatic in what they talk, and saying what they are saying. If they want to help Cameroon, they should say okay we have this biometric equipment for you to do the registration, that’s how they should help Cameroon and we see that, that would be fair. If they forcefully guard Cameroonians and push the present registration down their throats, it’s another stone again on their heads and it will not be as easy as they think.
So if that happened, would you still be running in the election knowing fully well that you encouraged people not to register?
We’ve not discouraged people from registering. We’re saying under the present dispensation… can you quote me anywhere where I said Cameroonians don’t register? Can you do that? No. Can you quote me anywhere where I said they should register? I’ve not said that because I know am talking to mature people who can take their own decisions and their positions and if you see the apathy it is because all these people have seen that from 1992 the conduct of elections in this country has not been credible. So they’re taking their responsibility and position.
I can talk as a politician but I can not go, hold you at the polling station to vote for me. It’s your conscience and the consciences and the consciences of the Cameroonian people that are judging them now. That’s why you see Elecam on the field, plus the CPDM themselves, all the doctors, professors, talking big in fighting their own tribal groups and all the like, giving monies for them to do this, they’ve not been able to register up to a million people. They’ve registered 950 000. I mean they should be ashamed of pronouncing those results. If Nigeria, could within two weeks register 80 million people, it should be a shame for Cameroon to be telling you that in nine months we registered 950 000 people.
These registrations are double registrations. To the people of the United Nations, I was able to show them doubled, tripled registration from individuals. In Bafoussam, the people removed and said chairman, “we have people who have registered say 10 times and these are their receipts”. When one person registers ten times and you’re so happy that you come and say we’ve registered 950 000 people, when you go check that they’ve not registered up to 500 000 people.
Coming out of your meeting with President Paul Biya in Bamenda in December, you said that you had a feeling that the demands you’ve made, that is the SDF as a party, didn’t reach the president. At that meeting, you personally handed the president this memorandum that contained your objections to Elecam. Since then nothing has changed. What do you now think is really the problem?
I will not be able to tell you what the problem is. The problem is Mr. Biya’s cult. Because nothing has changed and he’s made no statement, that’s why am on the field doing my job. Many people sort of previewed and went out to blackmail me that oh with the handshake now, Fru is very happy, satisfied and to him that’s the end of the road. I’am on the field doing my politics. A handshake does not compromise the position of the SDF on what we stood for and fought for, for all these years.
Now talking about that meeting, were you surprised that President Biya finally decided to meet you?
Well it was his own cup of tea whether he met me or not. I was there, for 21years, I’ve moved without meeting him, we’ve been going on. If there’s any fear in the country about politics, the fear is being instilled by the SDF, that they think that the SDF is a party that can take over from them and the SDF is a party that can bring order and discipline in this country and most of them think they would be disciplined. Well, to us that’s not the case. If he’s been afraid, let Cameroonians know why he’s been afraid.
When I noticed the upheavals of 2008 coming up, I personally wrote to him and indicated that I want to meet him in the interest of the country. He didn’t give in, so I had to keep quiet. If he come to Bamenda and decides to meet me, well, it is he who then knows best why he had to meet me.
Before he came to Bamenda, you understand that there were lots and lots of allegations as to the fact that he was going to be killed in Bamenda: he would be assassinated, there were bomb blast… Even the people that were saying this came to Bamenda, destroyed internet and cyber cafes. These things were skillfully manipulated, that we see that they were works of experts and these were in a desperate effort to frighten and intimidate Mr. Biya not to come to Bamenda, so it was not from the point of view of the SDF.
Now you’ve met him for the first time after a very long time, what kind of man do you think President Paul Biya is now that you’ve been able to talk to him face to face?
You are a young man and I don’t think that when you kiss a girl for the first time you go out to tell people what type of a girl that girl is. I think it needs time for you to analyze and tell somebody who that other person is. It needs two to tango and you have to move a distance for you to know that the other person is a nice tango partner but not until then, you still have your reservations.
Have you and President Paul Biya discussed anything pertaining to the coming elections?
Well you know that in Bamenda that was the first meeting, and we couldn’t have been relaxed to start discussing issues. I met him again at Etoudi, it was just New Year wishes and congratulations, happy New Year, bla bla and off; and in Ebolowa again you saw that he was sort of hemmed in and he couldn’t receive anybody, he didn’t receive me. So, you cannot ask if we discussed about elections. He knows that the Elecam issues we’re talking about are because of elections.
We’ve heard reports that say you’ve been talking with other opposition parties possibly for a coalition towards the coming election. Is this correct? Can you give us more details about these discussions?
Well I’ve not discussed with any political party. You see that the SDF, when we started fighting against the illegalities and the illegal composition of Elecam, the SDF was doing it alone and till today, we’re still finding ourselves on the field alone.
Now could this be an option that is getting together with other parties, at least those that are not part of the presidential majority?
We are going solo for now. But we’ll not close our doors that people should not come. We’ll not stop what we’re doing to run around inviting people to sit down for endless meetings, trying to look at this look at that and in the end before you even finish the meeting Yaounde knows everything that you are discussing. That’s why we are doing it the way we are doing. For instance, when we demonstrated on 20th May and brought out the placards of “No to Elecam and all the like”, the SDF did that alone. If we had involved other political parties it would have leaked out just before it even came out of the print. But we did it and covered the whole country without a leakage. So, we found ourselves that in the past we were working with people who were agents of government. So any political party that would want to work with the SDF should come, meet us and say look, listen, we support your ideas, we support what you’re doing, we want to work with you. Then we’ll know how we can work together.
You’ve said it before, in answering one of the questions, but I just want you to put it to me again in perspective. Your relationship with President Paul Biya is not affecting the SDF at all, that’s what you’re saying. What reassurances can you give the people on the streets that seem to read this kind of meaning into these meetings?
I think that if they woke any Cameroonian and asked him what is your opinion about Fru Ndi on this, this, this, the person should be able to tell you without closing the eyes to think that this is what I think of Fru Ndi. Shaking Mr. Biya’s hand is a handshake. I think I’ve had handshakes with Cameroonians; he’s a Cameroonian as any other Cameroonian. If shaking his hand was in the deeper interest of the Cameroonian people, then it’s a handshake in the right direction. But if the handshake was pictures for the gallery, for shows, then it’s a handshake in the wrong direction.
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